Novalis was a pen name used by German poet Georg Philipp Friedrich Freiherr von Hardenberg (1772-1801). In 1794, at the age of 22, Novalis met and fell in love with 12-year-old Sophie von Kühn. Novalis's biographer and friend Ludwig Tieck described the depth of his captivation:
It was not very long after his arrival at Arnstadt, when in a country mansion of the neighbourhood, he became acquainted with Sophie von K—. The first glance of this fair and wonderfully lovely form was decisive for his whole life; nay we may say that the feeling, which now penetrated and inspired him, was the substance and essence of his whole life. Sometimes, in the look and figure of a child, there will stamp itself an expression, which, as it is too angelic and ethereally beautiful, we are forced to call unearthly or celestial; and commonly at sight of such purified and almost transparent faces there comes on us a fear that they are too tender and delicately fashioned for this life; that it is Death, or Immortality, which looks forth so expressively on us from these glancing eyes; and too often a quick decay converts our mournful foreboding into certainty. Still more affecting are such figures, when their first period is happily passed over, and they come before us blooming on the eve of maidhood. All persons that have known this wondrous loved one of our Friend, agree in testifying that no description can express in what grace and celestial harmony the fair being moved, what beauty shone in her, what softness and majesty encircled her. Novalis became a poet every time he chanced to speak of it. She had concluded her thirteenth year when he first saw her: the spring and summer of 1795 were the blooming time of his life; every hour that he could spare from business he spent in Grüningen; and in the fall of that same year, he obtained the wished-for promise from Sophie's parents.
They were engaged on Sophie’s 13th birthday. When Sophie died at the age of 15, shortly after her 15th birthday of an inflammation of the liver, Novalis was shattered: “For three years she has been my hourly thought. She alone bound me to life, to the country, to my occupations. With her I am parted from all; for now I scarcely have myself any more.” (Carlyle, 1829).